Waitrose Leyland distribution centre 'takeover' talks fears for hundreds of workers
Hundreds of workers at a regional distribution centre in Lancashire are said to be concerned about their jobs as the company confirmed it was in 'takeover' talks for the facility.
The Leyland Waitrose Regional Distribution Centre (RDC) could be set to be transferred to a third party operator.
It is feared 450 workers, including drivers and warehouse staff at the centre - on the Matrix Business Park, Eaton Avenue, Buckshaw Village - will lose their 'Partner' status and the benefits that come with it if the move goes ahead.
Employees are known as 'Partners' and share in the likes of attractive bonuses, discounts and subsidies with the company.
The parent company is the John Lewis Partnership - the UK's largest employee-owned business and parent company of its two retail brands.
They are John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners, which are owned in trust by more than 78,000 'Partners'.
But the company has been accused of 'throwing workers under a bus' despite their loyal and dedicated work throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The Post has been told by an employee at the centre:: "450 HGV drivers and warehouse staff at the Leyland Waitrose RDC have been told that they will be thrown out of the Partnership and transferred to a third party logistics firm.
"Waitrose is part of the John Lewis Partnership.
"Each employee is known as a 'Partner' as they are co-owners of the business.
"When these Partners are kicked out of the Partnership they will lose entitlement to the annual bonus, which averages 11.5 per cent of gross earnings,, 25 per cent discount in John Lewis / Waitrose, industry leading pension, subsidised hotels and all the other benefits the Partnership has to offer.
"These Partners have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID pandemic to keep supermarkets shelves stocked, only for the Partnership to throw them under a bus."
A Waitrose spokesperson confirmed talks with a 'third party' that would operate the centre had been taking place for months.
They said: "A significant part of our Leyland site continues to be underused so since last summer we have engaged our Partners working there in an open conversation about potential solutions.
"We are currently exploring options, which includes the possibility of a third party operating the site on our behalf, however no decisions have been made."
There are three Waitrose & Partners Regional Distribution Centres across the UK, located in Bracknell, Aylesford and Leyland.
All three sites operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week
The £35m Leyland RDC was launched in 2013 after Waitrose first announced plans for it in March, 2011
Covering 360,000 sq ft of warehouse space and 50,000 sq ft of offices, the warehouse initially employed 300 workers and serviced more than 40 branches across the North of England and Scotland.
Waitrose said all 450 employees there now are 'Partners' and do not work under different arrangements. There is no trade union involvement.
Councillor Paul Foster, leader of South Ribble Council, said: "Clearly this is an issue for the employers and they are critically important employers of South Ribble.
"But we would absolutely urge they always consider their employees."
He said as a council South Ribble was mindful of any terms and conditions that impacted on any working arrangements.
He said: "We don't agree with employees' terms and conditions being changed at any time without their consent.
"It is difficult to comment when you don't know the full details, but we would urge constraint and would support all parties if they needed it."